Summary: Uncovering four foundational truths about the character of God in Jesus' Parable of the Tenants and a corresponding personal lesson we can apply to our lives.
The title of this message carries a double meaning. We’re going to learn that Jesus was not only the rejected SON; He was also the rejected STONE.
A guy who was crossing the street to visit his neighbor. As he started to cross the street, a car was bearing down on him, so he stopped and backed up to the curb. The car stopped, so he started to cross, and the car started to move toward him. He changed direction and went back to the curb and the car moved toward him. Then he moved to run across the street and the car swerved in that direction. He moved left and the car moved left. He moved right and the car moved right. Finally he just stopped in the middle of the road. The car screeched to a stop right in front of him. He walked around to the driver’s window and the window rolled down. The man was surprised to see a squirrel behind the driver’s wheel. The squirrel said, “I just wanted you to know what it feels like.”
As we walk with Jesus toward the cross I want you to put yourself in His sandals and try to experience what He experienced. On this final week before the cross, every evening, Jesus walked back over the Mt. of Olives to stay in Bethany, and each morning, he retraced His steps returning to Jerusalem to walk up onto the temple mount to teach and to debate the Jewish religious experts.
A few days ago, a group of us from East Texas stood on the very same Mt. of Olives and walked down the same trail Jesus would have taken. The Temple Mount is still there, but instead of the Jewish temple shining there, the Temple Mount today has the Muslim Shrine of the Golden Dome of the Rock. But it’s the same area, and it wasn’t hard to picture the city filled with pilgrims for Passover. Each day as He arrived in Jerusalem He was challenged to a debate with the religious leaders. I call them the religious mafia, or the religious snobs. These debates took place in front of thousands of people who had gathered for Passover.
Matthew 21:33-46. “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them, ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’’ Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.”
This parable is obviously an allegory. Each character in His story represented someone real. It says that the Jewish leaders knew He was talking about them. The immediate meaning of the parable is simple: (1) The Landowner refers to God. (2) The vineyard represents the nation of Israel. All the Jews were familiar with the passage from Isaiah 5 in which God planted a vineyard, which symbolized Israel. (3) The wicked tenants represent the Jewish religious leaders—the priests and people. (4) The servants sent by the owner represents the Old Testament Prophets. God sent dozens of prophets to Israel to warn them of their sin, but the Jews mistreated the prophets and killed many of them. (5) Of course, the owner’s son represents Jesus Christ. The Bible says “Christ came to that which was his own (meaning the Jewish people), but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11) (6) The new tenants to whom the owner gave the vineyard represents the rest of us, the Church.